ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday November 18, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 25

Coach with the Midas touch

By M. Shamil Amit

Mahesh Weerasinghe has made a huge impact in domestic cricket as a coach. Pic by Ranjith Perera

You may not know him by name. Yet there are many accolades against the name of Mahesh Weerasinghe who has made a huge impact in domestic cricket as a coach.

He first began wielding the willow in the Under 11 Division One team of Kottawa Dharmapala and went on to lead the side the next season in 1980.

Today he could be termed as one of the top cricket coaches of Sri Lanka having produced many champion schools and inter-club teams. To be exact he has produced 39 champion teams in the schools and club circuit and also ten runners up teams in a coaching career which is nearing the mark of a score.

Presently the coach of a champion club outfit Chilaw Marians to which club he has brought in a whopping 17 titles since he began coaching the side in 1998 not forgetting the runners up title to the same club which is just over seven.

Mahesh explained “It was a coincidence meeting with Godfrey Dabrera who was responsible for me being appointed coach of Chilaw Marians. At that time I was coaching Nomads when he offered me the coaching stint. I took up the challenge and from there on it has been a load of success for me and the Marians.

The title clinching fever under his coaching stint for the club began in the very first year with Chilaw Marians though he began coaching a decade earlier, when he guided them to win the Division Two qualifying tournament and also became the Under 23 Segment ‘B’ league joint champions. This was followed the next year by becoming champions in the Division One Sara Trophy tournament.

The millennium year saw him guiding the Marians to two titles winning the limited and league titles of the Sara Trophy tournaments and repeated the same one year later. This earned the club a promotion to the Premier division and from there on the side became one of the most feared teams in the top league. The Premier division campaign began with the clinching of the 2002 Under 23 title and then the Plate championship title and again the same was repeated in the year 2003 retaining the Under 23 title in 2004. Another feather in his cap was when the Marians emerged the Twenty/20 inter-club champion which was held for the first time in Sri Lanka in 2004 after clinching the Premier limited over trophy during the same period.

In the year 2005 after guiding the Marians to clinch the Under 23 the team embarked on a tour to England for the World Twenty/20 inter-club champions where they emerged as the runners up.

There are other clubs that have benefited from his coaching like Old Dharmaplians which club he first played after leaving his alma mater, Saracens SC the side he guided to emerge as the Under 23 Segment ‘B’ champions and also the Sara Trophy Plate and Champions Trophy, Kelaniya CC to become the Division Two, Under 23 and Sara qualifying champions. These are some of the titles that the clubs have achieved under his guidance. His coaching career at school level has been numerous starting from the junior, senior and provincial level. President’s College Rajagiriya where he started coaching in 1998 was turned into a champion outfit in just five years with the school clinching the Elephant Lemonade trophy in 2002 while overcoming some reputed schools in the process. Being given the opportunity to coach the Western Province North Outer Under 16 and 19 teams here too he guided both the teams to become champions in the 2003/04 season.

Mahesh spoke proudly of his cricketing career to The Sunday Times saying “I was one of the key players and I have never let down my side”. He has led the Kottawa Dharmapala Under 11, 13 and 15 sides and later having joined Dharmapala Pannipitiya he went on to lead the Under 17 and the senior team which he led in the 1990/91 season. Pursing his past records at school level shows that he has been a successful left hand batsman, his batting record is too numerous to mention which will take another huge space but he says his proudest moment was being a member of the best outstation team in 1987.

After he left school then went on to represent Old Dharmaplians in the Sara Trophy tournament and in one match he cracked a knock of 262 against Kalutara PCC in the Under 23 tournament in 1992. Six years later he slammed another 265 against Matara in a Sara Trophy match and also put on a record 495 runs partnership for the third wicket. Mahesh paid his gratitude to his past coaches who moulded him saying his junior coach at Kottawa Dharmapala Upali Somasiri saw his talents and persuaded him not to give up and later the senior coaches S.B. Senanayake and T.K. Palitha were responsible in fine tuning him. “I am grateful to A.M. Jayatissa who was the master in charge at Dharmapala Pannipitiya, as I lost my father when I was six years old and he supported me financially and helped me by purchasing cricket gear for me.

“Also the backing I got from my family members specially my two elder brothers Ajith who is also a cricket coach and Wijith and my mother helped pursue my cricket career without a hitch”. His two younger brothers Dinesh and Sanjaya are also involved in coaching with the former in Thurstan and the latter at Seethawaka MMV Avissawella.

Mahesh spoke with sadness and disappointment for not having received the coaching stint that he was promised by the present SLC last year. Saying “I was interviewed for this post by a committee seeing my qualifications they assured me saying I was the most suitable candidate but only to learn later that another person has been appointed”.

In conclusion he says “I don’t cry over spilt milk I will carry on with my coaching career and someday my capabilities will be recognized and I am sure I will be rewarded. So until then I will go on producing champion outfits.”

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